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About Fallout (1955)

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About Fallout (1955)

Published ca. 1955

Attempt to dispel many common myths and fallacies about radioactive fallout.

Run time 8:20
Producer Wilding Picture Productions, Inc.
Sponsor U.S. Department of Defense
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Dispels many of the common myths and fallacies about radioactive fallout.
Ken Smith sez: "Radiation is something we live with every day." This film drips Eisenhower; promoting a cozy, nuclear-war-isn't-so-bad approach, as opposed to the more frenetic drumbeat of the Truman years. As long as we "know the facts" and "act intelligently," the narrator assures us, we'll be able to weather any nuclear firestorm that blows our way. "The key to survival is adequate shelter," we are told. "The fallout shelter is the best defense. Without shelter, millions would face death." To ensure that we understand this, we are shown an animated map of the U.S. after its been hit with about 1000 nuclear warheads, all ground bursts, and we see a terrible cloud of resulting fallout that quickly covers the entire country. It's a bone-chilling graphic, but this is, after all, a motivational movie.
Chock-full of the usual fuzzy advice ("Fallout swallowed accidentally with food or drinking water would do you no immediate harm"), and a nice, Ike touch -- any concept remotely unsettling is shown through animation, while live action is reserved for happy, under-control Americans. This film very clearly shows how mid-fifties Washington, having worked America into a nuclear frenzy, was trying to put a reassuring spin on a messy situation.

Danger Lurks


Reviewer: Tkjns - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 14, 2012
Subject: This film was released in 1967!
The full title of this film is Briefly About Fallout. It came out in 1967, not 1955, and is a trimmed version of the longer About Fallout from 1963. The National Fallout Shelter Program, heavily promoted in the film, did not come around until late 1961.
Reviewer: Alphared - favoritefavoritefavorite - February 26, 2010
Subject: Reviews and reviewers...
You know I have seen alot of these old cold war films on the site. I have read the reviews as well. I am a child of the cold war (though of a later generation then these films).

Let's look at this practically. We have two camps; the 'if they knew then what we know now' camp and the 'at least there was some hope for some' camp. Let me be clear about what I am shortly going to type, I am not looking back for me nice comfortable chair in the 21st century when I type and read the following!

As a fact! when I was growing up (70's) we knew an all out nuclear assault could not be survived, by either side, by 90% of the populace. There was no shiny new coat of paint on this. Nuclear warmeant, total nuclear war, and total nuclear war meant death. Simple! Now I was aware of these films before I even saw my first, and even way back when I did see my first one it was totally laughable that anyone could have produced such garbage, or that anyone had the capacity to chock it down for mental digestion. Why do you think most are designed for children...they can suspend there disbelief, because they haven't developed any yet! If you don't believe the government that sponsored, scripted and, filmed these tales of misinformation knew all the while that they were lieing, well I got some magic beans and they just happen to be for sale.

Point is this. These films were not made to help some survive, survival by luck can not be demonstrated. They were not made to show what research had shown to be true, research had falsified most every claim ever made in these films (the few true facts shown are there only to give weight to the true message).

These films were made for a singular purpose, to foster fear of the enemy. The message is clear; 'Here's what the enemy can do to you, here's something we want you to think you must be prepared to do about it. Think about it day and night. Don't let one moment pass without it on your mind! See how horrible the enemy has made your life? Hate your enemy!!!'

Anyone in there nice comfy 21st century chairs find this message familiar?? You should!!

So camp one, they did know then, they just choose to classify it as a secret for national security reasons.

Camp two, I still have those magic beans!!
Reviewer: dust and scratches - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 19, 2008
Subject: About Fallout
One thing we have to remember about all these old films. The people that made them were doing the best they could. Life isn't always one big conspiracy. Just because you're sitting at a keyboard in 2009, typing your comments from a 21st-century point of view doesn't make you God. Give history a break.

How is History going to "judge" you and your work?
Reviewer: drmonth - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 19, 2004
Subject: Why be cynical?
Why must everyone be so incredibly cynical with the old Civil Defense nuclear films? Nothing in this film was overtly wrong, although the information in it was extraordinarily oversimplified. While two weeks after a nuclear blast it *would* probably be safe to leave a fallout shelter, it *would not* be safe to remain in that particular area for any extended period of time.

And here's something to think about for Spuzz and his ilk: while I know government disinformation is to this day alive and well, why would the US government knowingly kill off millions of its own people by giving them information that was overtly wrong? If the Soviets had bombed us then, this information *could* have saved *some* people. This was in a time when atomic war was almost considered inevitable. People high in the government knew that nuclear war would kill millions and also knew that not much could be done to stop that. The mentality here is to save as many as you can without getting the populace worried about something that was considered inevitable.
Reviewer: DrAwkward - favoritefavoritefavorite - October 24, 2003
Subject: Creepy
Like many of these Cold War relics, this film is meant to reassure the viewer that the nuclear family is strong enough to survive a nuclear war, and that fallout isn't really that dangerous if you wait two weeks in your shelter before dealing with it. I wonder if these films did not serve a twofold purpose: to encourage the populace to remain calm in the face of what we now know to be a potentially far more dangerous situation, and to reassure us that our own use of nuclear weapons on a certain other country was not that horrible. I find the narrator's tone particularly unsettling here. In the calm tones of science and authority, he tells us that the thing that may kill us is our friend, like the doctor in the Milgrim Experiment that says it's okay to increase the voltage on the test subject when in fact, we're frying the poor guy to death.
Reviewer: grog - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 1, 2003
Subject: fallout
this film is pretty good with some comical advise, but if it was me i wouldn't want to eat any exposed foods even if i did "use simple food washing methods" you would think their would still be a small amount of radiation even if you did wash it. and just for the record radiation dose not rapidly just go away, it takes millons of years for it to "go away." in japan there are small amounts of radiation still today, harmless but still there.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - February 12, 2003
Subject: About Fallout (1955)
The effects of nuclear fallout and how you can protect yourself from it are explained in a rather dry fashion. This was made when they still thought a nuclear war was survivable, despite the scary map with red streaks that eventually fill the whole continent. A mildly fun segment features a housewife washing and preparing food in a fallout shelter. Where she manages to find fresh tomatoes during a nuclear holocaust is not explained. The rest of the film is pretty dull.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Reviewer: op712 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 3, 2003
Subject: The Atomic Age part 2
Excellent coverage of the condition of fallout from an atomic attack. Remember, in 1955, this was the height of the Cold War, with the USSR being our greatest enemy. Ol' Nikita K. wanted to get rid of us and bad, but he knew that we had atomic weapons also, so this kept him in check at all times. (Wargames) This film, being as informative as it is, is what the Civil Defense Department knew best, and once again, in 1955, things were completely different than they are here in the 21st century (are you listening mr.spuzz?). My friend had a friend whose parents actually built their home on a rock bed and built a fallout shelter under the house. My place of employment had Civil Defense rations in the basement, and that basement was designated as one of the town's fallout shelters. In the mid 50's, as this picture had shown, this matter was to be taken seriously, why the calm voice in the narration was not to disturb and create fear, but to give confidence and assurance to the American People.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 10, 2002
Subject: Don't Worry, Be Happy.
The calming voice in 'About Fallout' doesnt want you to worry. If the bomb comes, Fallout is no big deal. Many hilarious propositions are made on what you should and can do. Did you know that being in the middle of a building protects you better then on the ground? That eating food (after washing it with no doubt radioactive water) is FINE? and that you just need 2 WEEKS in the shelter before everything's back to normal? No? No? No?
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